A condition called gynecomastia causes men and boys to develop enlarged breast tissue. This may occur if two hormones in your body are thrown out of balance. In the case of enlarged breasts caused by fat deposits, you have a different condition known as pseudogynecomastia.” In contrast to women, men do not develop breast tissue the way they do, all boys are born with a small amount of breast glandular tissue.

During puberty, testosterone is the main hormone produced by a boy’s body, which controls his sexual development. Additionally, males also produce some estrogen, which is the hormone responsible for promoting sexual growth in females.

In puberty or when the body of an older man produces less testosterone, the balance between these two hormones changes.

This can lead to male breast tissue swelling when a higher percentage of estrogen is present. The prevalence of this condition varies from half of adolescent boys to two-thirds of men over the age of 50.

Symptoms of Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia can first be detected by a lump of breast tissue under the breasts. There might be tenderness or soreness in this lump.  This may affect one or both breasts and can be established by a medical history and physical exam.

If you are experiencing these symptoms you may wonder whether you have breast cancer, which does occur in some men. In general, gynecomastia is not indicative of cancer, but your doctor may run some tests to confirm that it is not the result of cancer.

Breast enlargement may occur unevenly, with one breast growth larger than the other. Additionally, you may experience tenderness in your breasts.

If you notice swelling, burning, or tenderness in your enlarged breasts, or if you notice a discharge from the breast nipple, see your physician.

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What Causes Gynecomastia?

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the hormonal imbalance that leads to the growth of male breasts, and often the exact trigger is unknown.

Aside from normal body changes such as puberty and aging, gynecomastia can be caused by a number of factors such as:

  • Injuries or diseases that affect the testicles and result in testosterone production
  • Thyroid problems. since hormones from that gland control growth and sexual development
  • Obesity increases estrogen levels
  • A wide range of illegal drugs, including anabolic steroids, marijuana, and heroin
  • Kidney disease or kidney failure  (when your blood cannot be cleaned and filtered)
  • Diseases of the liver
  • Pituitary gland tumors
  • Infant boys may briefly experience gynecomastia when they are still receiving hormones from their mothers.
  • Certain drugs  can result in gynecomastia, including:
  • Anti-androgens medications. These drugs are used for the treatment of prostate enlargement and prostate cancer

Synthetic anabolic steroids and androgens. In order to enhance their athletic performance, athletes may use these drugs illicitly. Some of the drugs are also used to treat legitimate medical conditions.

Anti-HIV drugs. In some cases, gynecomastia may be a side effect of HIV treatment, also known as highly active antiretroviral therapy.

Anti-anxiety medications. Medicines such as diazepam (Valium ) can sometimes cause gynecomastia.

Medicines for the heart. In some cases, drugs such as digoxin (Lanoxin) or calcium channel blockers can cause gynecomastia.

Medications used to eliminate the contents of the stomach. Metoclopramide (Reglan ) may cause gynecomastia as a side effect.

Medications for ulcers. Some medicines that you buy over the counter for ulcers can lead to gynecomastia, such as cimetidine (Tagamet).  Antibiotics may also result in gynecomastia. Additionally, some cancer treatments and tricyclic antidepressants may have these effects.

Treatment of Gynecomastia

The majority of cases resolve on their own without treatment. 

You might be referred to a specialist known as an endocrinologist when you suffer from gynecomastia. Endocrinologists treat problems relating to hormones and how they affect your body.

The gynecomastia treatment you receive will depend largely on your age, your health, the length of time your condition may last, and your response to certain medications.

The majority of cases of gynecomastia occur during puberty, and they usually disappear on their own. The process may take anywhere between six months and three years.

In the event that your hormonal balance is out of whack due to another health issue, you should treat that condition.  Blood tests may be required to establish gynecomastia diagnosed.

You may be prescribed medication to treat the hormonal imbalance that is causing your breast tissue to grow.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary. The following techniques may be prescribed by your physician:

Liposuction (removing excess fat from the breast) Mastectomy ( removing the breast gland tissue). Plastic surgeons perform these procedures.

Guidelines for Preventing Gynecomastia

The likelihood of developing gynecomastia can be reduced by taking certain steps. The list includes items such as:

Please refrain from using drugs such as steroids, androgens, amphetamines, marijuana, and heroin, as they are illicit and recreational.

Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.

Your doctor should review the list of your medications. When taking medications that may cause gynecomastia, ask your physician if alternative therapies are available.

The complications of gynecomastia

You may experience mental health consequences if you suffer from gynecomastia. This could result in feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, or depression. To manage these feelings, you can take several steps.

Discuss your feelings regarding gynecomastia with your doctor. Any mental health problems you may develop can be managed by a mental health professional.

Also Check Out: Gynecomastia and Klinefelter Syndrome

FAQ’s

How many men are affected by gynecomastia?

Adolescent gynecomastia

According to statistics collected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 50% and 60% of adolescent males experience gynecomastia. Gynecomastia often manifests in young individuals due to more male estrogen levels than is normally produced by the body during puberty. Around the time a man enters his 20s, the chest contour tends to naturally flatten out, but this may not always be the case.

Men with gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is even more prevalent among adult men. The same NIH study found that approximately 65% of men aged 27 to 92 years had some degree of gynecomastia. While the symptoms of gynecomastia in adolescents and adults may be similar, the causes of the condition are very different. Additionally to hormonal imbalances that occur over time, certain health conditions can also contribute to male breast enlargements, such as thyroid disorders and cancers of the pituitary gland. Consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs, such as marijuana, can also lead to gynecomastia.

What causes gynecomastia in puberty?

Gynecomastia is an increase in the size of the breast (guy-nuh-kah-MAS-tuh) as a result of the imbalance of the hormones levels estrogen and testosterone. Gynecomastia may affect one or both breasts, sometimes unevenly.